Arabic Language Blog

Alif and Hamza – part 2 Posted by on Apr 18, 2009 in Grammar

In this posting, I continue to summarize some rules related to the use of alif and hamza in Arabic writing. If you missed Part 1, check it out here.

At the beginning of a word, ‘hamzat alwaSl’ (همزة الوصل) can be found in relation to certain verb forms and their derivatives, e.g. verb form VIII (افتعل) for example to ‘approach’ (اقترب) and verb form X استفعل)) for example ‘to enquire (استعلم) and to use (استخدم). So, the alif at the beginning of these verbs should not be written with a hamza. The verbal nouns, i.e. (المصدر) of these verb forms should not have hamza written on the initial alif either, e.g. ‘respecting’ (احترام), ‘using, (استخدام), etc. In addition, all imperative, i.e. orders (الأمر) that begin with alif should not be written with a hamza, e.g. ‘write’ (اكتب) and ‘use’ (استخدم)

Sometimes, there are different ways of writing the same word when hamzas are involved, e.g. ‘responsibility’ can be written as (مسئولية) or (مسؤولية), and ‘affairs’ can be written as either (شئون) or (شؤون). Both forms are acceptable, and it is often the case that one of the forms is common in a certain country, e.g. the first of both examples are more common in Egypt, and the later of both are more common in the Gulf and the Levant regions.

At the end of the word, hamza can be written in conjunction with any of the short vowels, e.g. with a short /a/ (أ), with a short /o/ (ؤ), or with a short /i/ (ئ), e.g. ‘refuge; (ملجأ), ‘refugee’ (لاجئ), ‘slowing down’ (تباطؤ) At the end of the word, hamza can also occur not in conjunction with any vowel, and in this case it is written on the line (ء), e.g. ‘burden’ (عبء) and ‘friends’(أصدقاء)

Keep learning Arabic with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. usman:

    some problem with the written text on the web page,needs correction.thanks!

  2. Geoff:

    Your blog is very interesting and much appreciated. Thank you for it.
    Your comments on the absence of hamza in certain nouns and verbforms surprised me because I had not noticed it before. They also surprised my very knowledgeable Iraqi teacher. I checked in Al-Kitaab, and indeed the hamzas are missing. I checked in my old Cowan “Modern LIterary Arabic”, and it’s all very clearly set out in section 7(v). However, Barron’s “500 Arabic Verbs” has hamzas everywhere. Evidently there is some latitude in the implementation of these rules?

  3. Aziza:

    Hi Geoff,
    In fact, the use of hamzas is very confusing, even to native speakers of Arabic, and they are often misused, even on news channels and newspapers. It has become very common to use words like economy (اقتصاد) with or without hamza. However, I personally prefer to write it the grammatical way without hamza.
    I hope this is useful!
    Salam, Aziza